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Monica's World Journal
December 2000
December 2, 2000

So far I really like Salvador. Shaun, Sata, and I walked around the historic part of the upper city today. There's so much life on the streets here, even during the day music playing, people sitting in cute outdoor cafes. Its a little too hot for my tastes, but that's the only downside.

December 3, 2000

Last night I had a lot of fun with Kin, Greta, Katie, and Megan. We went to Rock in Rio cafe (club). Its the first time on this trip that I've been to a club. The place was interesting. A huge warehouse-like room with the bar kind of in the middle and a stage off to one side. We hung out with Daniel and some other crew members. Its weird to see them in normal clothes! They are definitely a fun group to hang out with!

I went with Jessica, Jessica, Vanessa, and Ruthi to walk around the upper city again. We went shopping. I bought some very cool stuff So far 22 SAS people have been robbed! I was going to try the phones tonight, but now I don't feel safe walking at night, even with a group!

Tonight was amazing! I went on an SAS trip called Bahia by Night. The only bad thing about the evening is that I lost a whole roll of used film! L It had 7 pictures since we've been here and the rest was from tonight. Ugh! I'm pretty sure it fell out of my pocket on the bus, oh well.

Anyway, we went to eat at a restaurant that is a renovated sugar mill. It was beautiful! After dinner (buffet-style), we watched a performance. First, the orixas danced. They are the gods of Candomble. They all had elaborate dresses with hoop skirts. Brazilians can dance! Then there was a man who played with fire! He swallowed it. Next Capoeria. I love this! Its a kind of game I don't really understand it all that well, but it was really cool! Two men try to trap each other. They get around this by crazy moves: standing on you head; doing flips with no hands; kicking. It is so beautiful. The two bodies work together almost as one at points.

For the grand finale, the dancers pulled us up on stage to dance with them. It was a LOT of fun!!

All in all, it was a great day and night! I just wish I hadn't lost that roll of film.

December 4, 2000

The perfect ending to a perfect day: I found my roll of film! More specifically, Jess found my roll of film.

This morning I had NO idea what to do today, so I went to breakfast to find others in my same situation. I found Allyson, Jason and AJ. We decided (Jenn joined us also) to take the ferry to Itaparica island, despite the fact that there was an SAS trip there also I hoped we wouldn't run into them. After going to the upper city to run a few errands (phone calls, post office, etc) we returned to the waterfront to catch our ferry. The boat was a lot like the boat I traveled on in Nha Trang. The water was choppy which made the 30-minute ride a lot of fun!

When we arrived at the island we took a minivan cab to the actual city. He dropped us off in front of a fort that we heard we should see. Oh yea, before we got there we stopped about a million times! We would pick up another person and drop off people. We dropped one woman off at the hospital! Anyway, we looked at the fort and it definitely seemed closed. So, we decided to walk around. The town was basically deserted! At first it was a little creepy! No one, local or otherwise, was around. We saw a sign for Latitude 13 degrees Restaurante and we decided to go there.

The town itself was beautiful cobblestone roads, Spanish-style houses with colorful tiles, tree-lined streets but it seemed deserted! After walking for about 5 minutes we found the restaurant. We stood at the waist-high wrought-iron gate and looked in. I heard voices, but we couldn't figure out how to open the gate! Finally, a woman came and told us to come in.

I was amazed at the style of the place! Apparently the owner was a sailor and the whole place was decorated in sailing paraphernalia! An anchor hung on one wall; examples of types of knots on the opposite wall; a nautical map; the place even had a bar! There were about 7 five-person tables, we were the only customers! It was great! The owner came out and he spoke English. So, after ordering we asked him all sorts of questions (his name was Marcelo). He told us that the town was a very safe place and that everyone goes into Slavador on Mondays to do business so that's why it was deserted. Later, he told us where we could rent bikes for an hour. (Walking was pretty much out of the question because it was unbearably hot!) The bathrooms in the place were very clean. The sinks were so cool! Not a basin shape, but flat; the water looks like its just flowing onto the counter, but there's a slit towards the edge of the counter that acts as a drain!

So we got our food and I had THE BEST french fries and steak I've ever had! Then we headed to rent bikes. We found the wooden shack with about 20 bikes sitting outside. I wonder who would rent them, only tourists? We rode our bikes for an hour (returning to the restaurant twice for a bathroom break and some water). There wasn't much more to see than what we saw in an hour because this town on the island was pretty small. We returned our bikes and got a taxi to take us to the ferry. At this point I was so happy because we hadn't seen a single tourist! We found out that there are two ferries when we were dropped off at a ferry which did not look like the one we came in on. We knew it would take us to Salvador, so we went. This one was a huge car ferry, and I don't think it was as much fun as the first ferry and we saw some SAS people. I guess we ended up going to the other side of the island and tourists don't usually go to that side.

I had a great time. I'm so glad I got out of Salvador and experienced a little local culture on our own, without a tour guide! I would love to return here someday!

Tonight we went to the mall and saw Charlie's Angels. It was like being at home.

I'm getting tired of traveling and am ready to be home We also went to the grocery store to stock up on food.

A lot more people were robbed today

And when I returned to the ship, Jess had my film! WOOHOO!

Its nice to be able to understand the language somewhat. They speak Portugese, but its a lot like Spanish. Its slowly coming back to me. Maybe by Cuba Ill be able to converse in Spanish.

I had such a GREAT day!!!

December 5, 2000

This morning I visited a woman's precinct where women go to get help and legal advice after they've been victims of domestic violence. It was in a police station/jail. The DV program has a small section of the building. Women come there to report violence. Its interesting that many of the things the officers of the program talked about were issues I've heard in the States: the cycle of violence (although they didn't call it that), the prevalence of lower class women being battered, etc. I was a little surprised that the issues women face in the US are worldwide. I guess I just never thought about it.

This afternoon I played with orphans who came on the ship for some fun with college students. Thirty-nine boys boarded the ship at 2:30they stayed until 6:00. They were so cute! First, they sang to us and played percussion instruments. Then we all made groups with 2-3 SAS people to each kid. I ended up just switching around. We gave Rafael a tour of the ship. Then half of us gathered on pool deck for some outdoor fun. We had a pinata that took them all of about two minutes to knock down. We played red light, green light for a while. It was easy to teach them by showing rather than telling how to play. I played a little soccer. Actually, I tried to play a little soccer. I really am horrible at it!

Next, it was to the Union for indoor activities.. Oops, after the tour we gave them cookies and punch. Ian did a very dull puppet performance Anyway, in the Union we basically goofed off. The boys were fascinated with cameras, so Liz and AJ let them run around snapping pictures. I tried to play a basketball game (more like dribble the ball around). By this time I was exhausted! I sat on the couch and watched for a while

It was a great time for me and for the kids!

I had the BEST night! I went with a bunch of staff people (it started out as Shaun, Sara, Brendan, and I) to see Olodum. Olodum is a percussion band that has so much energy its unbelievable. They played for 2.5 hours straight! Brazilians have the strangest dance style: its line dancing, but one person will just make up a dance then everyone will follow. I tried to follow, but most times I just ended up getting run over. The concert was in a semi-enclosed area. The roof was over only part of the square and there is a gate around the square. For about half the night I stood on a ledge with Sara and we people watched. There are some strange people out there!! We also laughed at Shaun dancing in the crowd

All in all it was a great night!

December 6, 2000

Red lights and stop signs are optional in Brazil. This morning we left early to get to internet before everyone else. Then we walked around the Pelourinho aimlessly. There was the city museum where we walked around inside. Orixas were ornately dressed in colorful outfits. I recognized some from Bahia by Night. Dioramas were used to depict slave life and love. It was your basic museum

We decided to make our way back to the ship, even though it was only 11:00 or so because finals are coming up and we all had a LOT of work to do. On the way back to the elevator (I don't think I've explained the upper and lower city. The lower city is where the ship is docked. Its not a good part of town. The upper city is where it all happens the Pelourinho. There's an elevator that costs 5 centavos to go between the upper and lower. Its an actual elevator!) We stopped to eat these ham and cheese bread things. Like hot pockets but better! While we were sitting at the table, a man came up to us and he was very nice so I asked what he was selling. He pulled out sketches made from woodblock. One really caught my eye, so I asked him how much? He said usually he charges R$50 ($25 USD) for the large ones and R$40 ($20 USD) for the small paintings. (I was looking at a small one). I only had R$7 left. He went on to say that he knows students have much power, but no money, so I could pay him whatever I thought fair. He accepted my 7 Real. I really would have given him more if Id had it, but I didn't. He showed me a book he keeps of all the people who buy from him. I gave him my name to add. I told him I would send him a postcard when I get home.

After he left, another man came up with a marionette. I tried to work it, but could not make it work as well. Anyway, we finally left the cafe. We were almost back to the elevator when we ran into Josh and Nick. Jason and I decided to hang out with them for a while. I figured its my last day, I should live it up.

So, the four of us just walked around. We explored more of the upper city. We walked down one street that was a little deserted, but cute nonetheless. We ate wonderful ice cream! We ran into AJ and Laura and we all went back to the place where I had sat and drank with the staff the night we went to Olodum. I ate some fries. By this time it was around 3:00. We decided to head back to the ship. On the way we stopped again for ice cream at another shop where they charge based on the weight. I had some centavos left and got just enough ice cream to spend my spare centavos. Now, completely broke, we headed down the elevator and stopped at the Marcado Modelo for Josh to spend the rest of his Reals. I found some really cool paintings of Capoeiraafter bargaining the price, I handed the woman my visa (I carried it in my pants so it wouldn't be stolen!) and now I have two paintings.

Finally, I arrived on the ship around 5:00. I showered and rested my feet. I was getting ready to start working on papers, etc when Jordan convinced me to go out to dinner with him. I agreed, but only if we didn't have to walk. I was way too tired to walk. We gathered spare reals from our neighbors and set out. At the top of the elevator we saw BJ and Katherine. So the four of us found a quaint restaurant. We drank wine and ate good food. On ship time was 9:00. At 8:15 our food arrived. Needless to say, we devoured our food in a hurry. By 8:30 we were out the door. We made it back to the ship at 8:50. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad Jordan convinced me to go.

I loved Salvador!

Oh yea, EVERY males name is Fabio!

I loved the buildings. I loved the Capoeira. I loved the Antarctica beer. I disliked the thieves. I disliked the heat. I disliked my difficult phone card.

I want to return to Brazil.

December 7, 2000

Its so weird to be thinking about going home. Today I got all my money out of the safe. Account closed. Everything is the last---- The last B day, the last A day. The last port. Etc, etc, etc.

My overriding feeling is excitement to be home and see Matthew again.

December 9, 2000

Tonight was the Ambassadors Ball. We all dressed up which was a LOT of fun! We went and had a fancy dinner in the main dining room. Then we headed upstairs for a slide show and dancing. The whole thing reminded me of prom The night was fun, but about halfway through I changed into more comfortable clothes. It ended up as a typical night in the Union.

I've been stressing about finals a little, but not too bad. I cannot make myself care about the Core exam. The class is so BS that studying seems counter productive. UGH! I don't have the notes I need and no one really does! Maybe well all do really bad and get a huge curve. Not likely. At least I'm doing good in every other class!!

December 10, 2000

Twelve days. WOW! I wrote this while sitting in Travelers Journals:

Its just beginning to hit me. Japan. China. Vietnam. Malaysia I can barely remember them. I've been around the world. Now, I'm almost home. Back to the familiar everyday routine. NO ONE will be able to understand what I've seen. What I've done no matter how many stories and pictures I have So soon. So close now, yet so far.

Soon it will all be over. How will I be able to stay in one place for a whole semester?

My emotions are so mixed. I don't know how I feel. Everything at once.

December 11, 2000

I am now officially on a cruise! My last paper has been finished. WOOHOO! All I have to do now is go to class the day after tomorrow and turn in my last paper! I took the Core test today, I pulled a C before the curve, so I'm pretty sure I got a B in the class.
Tomorrow is a study day. I'll be basking in the sun!

Tonight I watched another wonderful production put on by the theater department. The finale was a satirical Core session. They made fun of profs and spouted jokes that only SAS Fall 2000 members would get.

Silverbergs howler monkeys
Tatami mat lady
Tolleys many, many annoying habits
It made me realize that we all share a bond no one else will understand. Even past SASers.
It was a great last production!

Oh yea, I'm gonna play softball in Cuba! Only eleven days left

December 12, 2000

My first day on the cruise was very uneventful. I lay in the sun for about an hour. Then I jumped in the pool for a while I ate lunch. Then I wandered.

We had a lifeboat drill at 3:00Tonight was fun because we hung out in the hall and just goofed off
Only ten days left (basically 9!) WOW!!

I got some of my luggage today and packed one suitcase full of souvenirs. I hope that packing isn't as annoying and frustrating as it was when I packed to come on the trip!

December 14, 2000

Sometimes I think I'm going to go absolutely crazy! I've found that when I get annoyed with people me best defense is to exit gracefully

December 16, 2000

Six days from now I'll be home. The snow…I'm so happy to be going home to snow! Today I laid out in the sun for about two hours. It's such a hard life; yea right!
Four days from now Matthew will be in New Orleans! We made a sign last night. Jules, Yvette, and Laura penciled in the letters and I colored. It says, Hi Bama & Christi. I love U Matthew!!

Everything is coming to a close. I've packed as much as possible now.
I can't wait to be home!! I long for the familiarity of home. I'm sure that once I've been home for a few weeks I'll miss shiplife

As I write this, I realize that I'm totally neglecting Cuba!

Tomorrow I'll be in Cuba! A country that is so poor as a direct result of US sanctions. I wonder if the people realize that not all Americans support the embargo. I certainly don't! We pretend to help a country ease into democracy by totally cutting them off. In the process, almost every Cuban citizen is in poverty.

How many Americans can say they've been to Cuba? They're trying to get Castro to come on the ship. I really hope it works out! That will definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I just really want to be home.

I cannot concentrate on anything else.

December 17, 2000

I love Cuba! My day was spent on SAS trips. First we went to a welcome reception at the university of Havana. On the way, I fell in love with the city. The buildings are beautiful despite dilapidation. When we got to the university I fell in love with the campus! I wish I went to school on such a beautiful campus! We were treated to dances, songs, and even a juggler!

Next, I went on the city orientation. I haven't done a city orientation yet, so I figured I might as well! We drove around all afternoon, looking at the beautiful city parks, medieval-looking trees, huge gothic buildings. We stopped at the square where Castro addresses the Cuban people. I saw the building where Castro's office is.

The people here are so friendly! Even so, every time someone asks me where I'm from I hesitate, never knowing what reaction I'll receive. So far, there's been nothing negative. I feel so privileged to be able to visit Cuba! Port security is very tight metal detectors, guards, the works

Tonight was the best! After dinner, I walked a little while with Shaun and Josh. We just explored the port area. There are so many cute outdoor cafes! I would love to sit in one all day and people-watch!

At around 7:30 we returned to the ship to collect our group. Then we set off for a jazz club. Our taxi dropped us off at La Zorra y El Cuervo en el Jazz Club. There was a $10 cover charge, which we knew before, but the snow didn't start until 10:00! We couldn't get in until 9:30! So, with 1 ? hours to kill, we set off to walk some more.

We found ourselves at the waterfront. A sea wall had been built above the rocks. On the way to the club we noticed the sea spray clear the wall as the waves crashed into rocks below. So, we tempted fate (as Shaun called it) by standing at the wall and watching the waves. Every third wave or so would splash high enough to where we ran back from the wall. Finally, sufficiently wet, we headed back toward the club. For the next 45 minutes we sat on some stairs near the entrance to the club.

Once inside the club, we ordered pizza and drinks. The jazz was amazing! A black woman with long black dreds played the keyboard, drums, sang, and played random other instruments. A black man with dreds played drums, cymbals, and other percussion instruments, a white man with long hair played bass guitar with one hand, drums with the other, and a cow bell with his foot! A woman played the soprano sax (mostly improv). A young man played trumpet. Later, another woman also played soprano sax. Also, a man who won 1st place in the jazz festival played alto sax.

The show was AMAZING! The horns traded off, only playing about half the time between all of them. The three core members of the group did twenty different things at once in any given moment, never missing a beat!

My ears are still ringing.

December 18, 2000

Today was an awesome day! Shaun, Sara, and I set out this morning to explore. We ended up at the capital building where we checked our email! The capital building was ornately decorated. A huge bronze statue stood close to the entrance. The ceiling was painted in different colors. We were the only SAS people to have found this internet cafe, so there was no line! J The weather today was unbelievable! It was overcast and just the perfect temperature.

Oh yea, I'm a bus magnet here and in Brazil. For some STRANGE reason, every time I step off a curb into the street, a bus comes barreling by; it never fails!

Anyway, we came back to the ship to get Brendan. We also acquired AJ and Laura. The six of us set off to cross the river so we could visit the two forts and the huge Jesus statue.

We stayed at the first fort FOREVER! But it was a lot of fun! For a long time we sat on the edge of a wall which had a sheer drop to the sea. The waves crashed into the rocks. Sea spray misted all around me.

(Oh yea, before the fort we all went to eat pastries and have coffee at Cafe Paris).

Then we walked to the other fort which was close by. The second fort had 12 cannons which they call the twelve apostles. This fort was scary because part of it is still owned and operated by the military. There are still working missiles there!

Finally, around 2:00 we found a restaurant for lunch. We forgot to check the menu for prices, so after we sat down and looked at the $25.00 entrees, we all decided to get soup and french fries. The meal was excellent! Then we ate helado (ice cream) for dessert.

After lunch, we headed to the Jesus. It was a big white statue.

A highlight of my day was drinking a daquiri at El Floridita, where the daiquiri was invented! They were so good!

We did visit a cigar shop, but I didn't buy any cigars because no one I know smokes cigars. I still feel like I should buy one just to say I did, but why waste the money?

For dinner we ended up in a family owned restaurant. Just in the last 5 years the government has allowed individuals to own small, private restaurants. The rules are strict so that no privately owned businesses can out-do the government owned businesses. Only 12 seats cannot serve seafood or steak. The restaurant was in the front of a house where a family lived. We ate on the balcony. I am so happy!

I love Cuba! I might get to see Castro tomorrow. I'd have to forego the baseball game, but I guess I'll live <insert sarcasm!>.

The people here are wonderful. There are a TON of dogs! I have reverted to taking pictures like I did at the beginning of the voyage.

I play softball tomorrow! Only four days…

My feet ache, I'm exhausted, Cuba has done this to me, but I love the exhaustion and the satisfaction of another exciting day in Cuba!

December 19, 2000

Three days left! It seems like just yesterday that I was writing three weeks left! I played softball today! We played against the University of Havana baseball team. The final score was 7 2 (they won of course!). They would have beat us even worse, but after the first inning they just made fun of us by dropping the ball, waiting to go for the ball, etc. Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun. I played right field and catcher once. There were so many people on our team that we played 2 teams and switched every inning. So, I only got up to bat once. I can't wait for softball season to start!

Tonight was a surprise. I saw Fidel Castro speak! We arrive at a convention center around 5:00 and went into a huge room (one hour later). The room is where they have meetings of the national assembly. Exactly at 6:00, Castro came on stage! It was almost dreamlike. He talked for about 45 minutes then he surprised us all by opening up the floor to questions.

For the next THREE hours, he answered questions, but he only answered about three questions! He spoke in Spanish, so we all had to listen through these translator earpieces that hung off one ear.

One question that sticks out is the girl who asked who Castro favored in our presidential debate at home. Smartly, he said he stayed neutral.

He made speeches to answer each question without any notes. I got very antsy. It was hot also. So, after three hours I went to buy some water, I saw Sara and Josh and we got BJ and took a taxi back to the ship. I missed a free dinner, but I could NOT sit there any longer!

We stopped for 50-cent pizzas at Cafe Paris. Then Shaun found us and we went to La Mina for drinks and flan.

I feel like I should write more about what Castro said, but I really can't remember a lot of it because I was so antsy after about an hour and a half.

I guess it suffices to say that Castro came to address us! Its a first for Semester at Sea. His speech wasn't full of propaganda, although I'm sure he's done this enough to where he can insert propaganda anywhere and Id never notice. Oh yea, I left when he said he'd take time to answer everyone's questions even if he was there until the national assembly meeting tomorrow morning!

Tomorrows my last day in Cuba. Where did the time go?

I'm so ready to be home.

I didn't get to see a baseball game here but I guess seeing Castro was a little more important!

December 20, 2000

Homeward bound.

My last day in Cuba was mellow. I went shopping at the market. I spent way too much money on touristy crap, but its all from Cuba. I did end up buying a Romeo y Julieta cigar.

Tonight we had a USA pre-port. Last pre-port. Tomorrow, convocation.

I'm trying to decide how I feel now that the voyage is coming to a close.

I loved the Cuban people. I loved speaking Spanish. I loved playing softball! I disliked the discomfort of being an American in Cuba. I disliked how long-winded Castro was. I disliked the customs people who gave us a hard time.

So how do I feel? The overriding feeling I have is excitement to be home. I'm sure there are things I miss from the States that I can't even think of right now
I know I will miss shiplife in a week or two, but I can't even feel sad about that right now.

I was thinking about dinner in New Orleans. Really all I want is to sit in the hotel and order a pizza! I'm sick of restaurants and social dinners

At this point I think its important to just let myself be in the moment and now overanalyze my feelings. As with my attitude on this whole trip, I cannot expect to feel any specific thing because if I do, I might miss the unexpected feelings!

December 21, 2000

My last night on the ship. I'm so happy to be going home. Tonight was convocation. A bunch of people got really sentimental. These things always feel so fake in a way. People who have never even spoken to me come up and give hugs, etc.

I had a long talk with Sara, Shaun, Allyson, and Jenn about one speech made by a girl about how this trip has given her a sense of patriotism. Americas great and now I love being an American. That's what I got out of it. I don't understand how this voyage could make a person feel like that. In every port I felt guilty for being American.

Sure, I'm glad to be going home, but only because its what's familiar to me. Definitely not because its the USA. The things I've seen show me that we have some pretty messed up ways which keep some countries poor and ours rich. We are the biggest hypocrites of all when it comes to human rights.

There's so much stuff swirling around in my head about patriotism and being American. This trip has definitely made me see what it means to be American. But there's a LOT of bad feelings mixed up with the privileges. Guilt is the overriding feeling.

Do I want to try to change the way things are? In my heart I want to just get out of the US and disconnect myself from being American. On the other hand, should I take advantage of my privileges and use them to help others?

My questions cannot be answered. The best resolution I can see is to let my trip around the world sink in a bit. Then I should live my life, never forgetting this voyage. The impact it has on me has to come naturally. I'm sure it will

I can't wait for my life. For the familiarity of home.

December 23, 2000

We ended up docking around 10AM (it was supposed to be 7AM!). I found Matthew and Bama waving to me. The first moments that I saw Matthew were almost like a dream. The weather was FREEZING, so after a few minutes, they went inside. Then my long wait to get off the ship began.

Finally, around 3:00 I was in the terminal. A seacap brought my luggage to the loading area.

Today I realize that its kinda strange to think that I won't get on the ship again in a few days. I'm ready to be home.

When the seacap spoke for the first time in the terminal, it was very very strange. He spoke perfect English, no accent, and I understood what he said. It took me a minute to remember where I was and of course I would understand him!

There you have it!
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